2019 George P. Woollard Award

Presented to Emily Brodsky

Emily Brodsky

Emily Brodsky
University of California at Santa Cruz


Citation by Thorne Lay, University of California at Santa Cruz

Emily Brodsky is a outstanding choice for the 2019 George P. Woollard Award as her body of research involves a host of applications of principles and techniques of geophysics to address geological problems.  Her research spans experimental, field and theoretical modeling of dynamic deformation processes ranging from in situ measurement of frictional heating of fault zones, to dynamic triggering of earthquakes and damage production, to fault surface wear geometry and scale-dependent strength of materials. Her work is structured within a unifying quest to achieve earthquake prediction.  She is perhaps unique among active geophysicists in the diversity of applications and the wide range of approaches she takes to each geological system. For example, in her quest to advance understanding of earthquake predictability, she draws upon seismological observations of radiated energy, field investigations of damage zones, Lidar imaging of exposed fault surfaces, experiments with granular flow devices, theoretical modeling of microscopic mechanisms, and fault zone drilling.  While many of us become experts in just one of these fields, Emily taps into all of them, collaborating broadly, but attaining deep understanding of each. She continually surprises me with the extent of her grasp of subfields such a tribology and her ability to draw in the findings from such disciplines to provide a new context for understanding macroscopic faulting phenomena. Having earned her Ph.D. at Caltech in 2000, her impact has already been profound, and has been recognized by the SSA with the 2006 Richter Award, by AGU with the 2008 Macelwane Medal and by her selection as Distinguished Lecturer for Earthscope, Margins, and the National Science Board. She is a newly elected Fellow of GSA. Given that she is such a research dynamo, the odds appear good that she will succeed in her ambitious quest and I look forward to watching it happen.


Response by Emily Brodsky

I am grateful for this honor and Thorne’s kind words. After reading his citation, I think I need to work a bit harder to live up to expectations. Working on earthquakes provides plenty of opportunities for working hard on daunting challenges. These challenges demand that we bring together the tools of geophysics and geology to glean as much information as possible from faults at all scales. The Geological Society of America through its journals has provided the premier platform for discussing the confluence of geology and earthquake studies.  I am grateful for this venue for reading, writing and learning about earthquakes. 

Research is a collaborative venture and I have benefitted at every stage from interactions with mentors, collaborators and mentees. My graduate advisor Hiroo Kanamori motivated me to study earthquakes and has inspired me at every step of the way. My colleague Thorne Lay has engaged on a decade long coffee conversation that informs all of my work. My students and postdocs have done the hard work to answer the questions that we so casually pose. Of course, my professional life would not happen without patience and support in my personal life. My parents, Marc and Vivian, husband, Francis and daughter, Mae, are long-suffering and certainly co-earners of this honor. Many thanks to all of you for making so many sacrifices to make science happen.